Wembley will be easier, says Baptiste

Alex Baptiste
Alex Baptiste
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ALEX Baptiste reckons playing at Wembley will be easier than getting there.

The centre-back admitted he and the rest of the Seasiders team were taken aback by the ferocious atmosphere at Birmingham in the second leg on Wednesday night.

Pool showed their character by prevailing in front of 28,000 screaming Blues fans, drawing 2-2 on the night and securing a 3-2 aggregate victory, which has set up a showdown with Sam Allardyce’s West Ham next Saturday.

Although the Hammers are big favourites to win and claim a coveted Premier League place, Baptiste believes it might be a more straightforward task than that which faced the team at St Andrew’s.

“I always thought the game at Birmingham would be harder than the final with their home crowd behind them,” said the 26-year-old.

“I think it will be easier at Wembley in terms of us having 40,000 Blackpool fans there cheering us on.

“At St Andrew’s. the Birmingham crowd were fantastic and there are so many of them. It was tough.

“At Wembley we will have just as many supporters as West Ham, all backing us and willing us on, like they always do.

“We will be the underdogs at Wembley, but that is nothing we’ve not experienced before and we go there full of confidence.”

Like many Pool players, Baptiste truly believes that West Ham are beatable.

The bookies and the pundits disagree.

They point to the fact that West Ham finished 11 points clear of the Tangerines in the Championship table, and twice put four past Pool in the league.

But as Baptiste points out, what regular Seasider watchers know is that in the last nine games – since a lacklustre defeat at Reading – Ian Holloway’s men have been a different team.

They are unbeaten in those nine games and have kept clean sheets.

“That is what all these people making predictions don’t realise,” said Baptiste.

“It is a completely different team even since the West Ham match at home, in February.

“These last nine games have been superb and we’ve felt totally different as a team.

“We are a stronger unit together.

“We can’t wait to play them. They might be installed as favourites but in our minds we are going to win this.”

Reflecting on that midweek triumph over Birmingham, which has left Pool 90 minutes away from a return to the Premier League, Baptiste added: “We are delighted because it was a tough game.

“In the first half, we battered them, then they came back strong. The first goal by Nikola Zigic looked offside to me, but they got the decision. Then when Curtis Davies scored his header it was a bit of the Alamo after that.

“They pressed hard but we have real character at this club and we saw it through, like we always do when the pressure is on.

“I am delighted for the boys, the gaffer and everyone involved with Blackpool, and here we go again.”